Tyrone Brass spent nearly two decades working for Syncrude before heading out on his own five years ago to start his own company, Bayzik Electrical Valve and Instrumentation Inc.
“It’s going where I want it to be. I don’t just want to be a guy who travels around in a truck with tools,” says Tyrone. “I also wanted to have a little bit of a distributorship; carry a line of electronics and have technical support staff to support that.”
Tyrone started his career in the late 80s as a labourer in the mining department at Syncrude. Over the years, he took advantage of progressively more senior opportunities in different departments while also going to school to acquire two trades; electrician and instrumentation technologist.
Along the way, his managers at Syncrude supported him wholeheartedly. “I had managers really encourage me and alert me to various development programs that Syncrude had,” says Tyrone. “That helped make bettering yourself a positive experience.”
As a young man just starting out, Tyrone remembers seeing a native company showing off its success in a parade near his home reserve. “It had a big effect on me. It made me really proud to be an Indian,” says Tyrone.
“I thought, man oh man if I do this, if I go there, I am going to make sure that I give someone else a boost and do that for someone else.”
Tyrone has five native employees working for him at the moment and he’s always looking for more. Aside from growing his own business, he helps other native businesses as the 2nd Vice President of the Northeastern Alberta Aboriginal Business Association (NAABA). The non-profit organization promotes businesses, jobs, and training that support all native people in the region.
He’s also a huge booster of Alberta Apprenticeships, and has sponsored a number of apprentices on his staff. “I have assembled a very high powered brilliant team of folks at Bayzik” Tyrone says.
Reflecting on his successful career from employee to entrepreneur, Tyrone, 50, says he couldn’t have done it without a series of great mentors at Syncrude. “One of the things they preached to me was that all problems – even big, complex and expensive problems - are really very simple,” he says.
“So when there’s a complicated problem, I run to it and look for the very simple, small problem at the core. And that’s where we start to solve it.”
Wood Buffalo Aboriginal companies performed over $575 million in contract work with oil sands companies in 2008.
This article appears in the January/February 2010 issue of CAPP's employee newsletter.